Sunday, August 28, 2011

Our pilgrimage begins in earnest — or — oh my aching feet!


Though I had hoped to give you this information as we lived it, I'm happy now to have decent internet and the opportunity to share these shots with you. So...

This is my memory of the pilgrimage to the vigil...

Our entire group met in front of the hotel on Saturday at 2 p.m. to pray before we began our eight mile hike to the airfield. Everyone was carrying their backpacks filled with overnight goodies. We carried LOTS of water! Photos of Dwenger alum and the entire group were taken.

As we made our way down the hilly streets of Madrid in 103 degree heat we found we were lost. After some twists and turns we found our route again. Part of that journey was up a switch back sort of stair way. Very cool but all up hill!


Along our walk, Father Matt entertained us with his umbrella, while his brother Father Terry balanced his backpack on his head. Our loyal priests were with us every step of the way.

We were fortunate to take some breaks by nearby water sources. One such source was a lawn system where we cooled our feet. Another was a saintly young man who filled our empty water bottles with his hose through a chain link fence. This kind soul filled until we were all satiated, and would not take one euro! God bless his soul!

Many recited the rosary together as we walked. Others sang hymns. The graffiti in Spain is remarkable and we all stopped to admire the work done along the walls that framed our trail. And of course the architecture in Spain had us all wowing!

It was an amazing hike, long and very tiring, but well worth the collective effort as we finally approached the grounds where our beloved pope would consecrate the youth of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that very evening.

We finally arrived at the airfield and were refreshed by fire truck hoses that the men were spraying over the crowd. What a delight!

We were disheartened however to find the gates closed to us. We were informed that our spot had been filled by earlier arriving pilgrims. There was a collective sigh that rose from our tired bunch. But recalling that pilgrimage means meeting hardships head on, we rallied and found a spot outside the airfield along with thousands of others who awaited the pope's arrival.

The skies looked dubious at best, and this after sunshine and 90-100 degree weather all week! So we hunkered down in anticipation of the threatening storm. And so it was that we all gathered together under trash bags, ponchos and anything else that would keep our collective sweaty bodies dry. The lightening that came with the rain was the most harrowing, but our brave Father Drew and the Franciscan Friars all prayed us through the worst of it. It was stirring to hear Father lift his voice higher and louder at each thunder crack! (Sorry this photo is blurred. I was trying to keep my camera dry.)

One young pilgrim commented as the storm blew over that our priests were truly concerned for our welfare and in this for us. That was dramatized poignantly by the scene we all had recently witnessed.

When all was said and done we had moved away from the metal tower we had been near to an outer field to set up camp. Many slept a little on their rafts, while others walked the area in search of food. Oh did I mention that our vouchers were not honored that evening as we were not in our assigned spot. Boy were we hungry!!!!

We were able to view the pope in his consecration speech on big screen that night and were content to know that we were nearly in this holy man's presence.

Tomorrow I'll report on Sunday and all that transpired that day.

Until then, peace!

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